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Retired “Officer of the Year” Kinner reflects on 28-year Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game career

Roy Kinner

Photo by Andrew Ottoson
Roy Kinner

Roy Kinner caught on with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in 1988, working as an enforcement technician — a training position and a stepping stone to becoming a conservation officer — in Orofino.

After high school, Kinner had pursued a two-year degree in forest recreation — and that degree opened a door to a career outdoors.

Earlier this year, Kinner retired, and in retirement he is spending even more of his time doing the outdoor activities he loves.

“My father always loved the outdoors — hunting and fishing — and he took me along,” Kinner said. “I got hooked.”

When he became an officer in 1990, Kinner was stationed in Riggins. His time there was busy.

“Riggins is one of the busiest districts in the region because it has anadromous fish as well as every big game species known to Idaho except antelope,” he said. “It’s a constantly busy place.”

Kinner, having become a jet boat pilot, was on his own to patrol an area extending upriver to Bargamin Creek and beyond. He arrived there on May 2, 1990, and on that May 3, the first salmon season in 15 years opened. He transferred to Grangeville in 1999 — at what proved to be a similar moment for salmon fishing in the South Fork Clearwater River.

“I thought the department ought to pay me more, because everywhere I went, the fishing got good,” he laughed. “Salmon and steelhead seasons have gotten better ever since. We have off years, but for the most part, it’s consistent.”

“Every year, I tried to make an emphasis to patrol the last week of elk season and deer season up on the Salmon River,” Kinner said. “That place would get flooded with people going up the Salmon with jet boats, for deer hunting. Since I had been in Riggins, I was training new officers and made it a point to them that they needed to be up here for it every year. We finally threw a trip together — me and Dennis Brandt and Craig Mickleson and his trainee.”

They went in on Nov. 6, 2015, came out on that Nov. 7, and they checked several dozen people.

At the first camp they saw, they busted a bighorn sheep poacher — the bust of a lifetime for any conservation officer — and Kinner ended up being named the 2015 Idaho conservation officer of the year.

The case resulted in a mixture of penalties against the perpetrator — more than $10,000 to be paid, jail time and the lifetime loss of his hunting privileges. Few wildlife crimes are punished so harshly, but to life-long outdoorsmen in Kinner’s mold, the punishment for destroying a trophy animal appeared fair.

“People have to start taking wildlife crimes more seriously,” Kinner said. “If they don’t, they’ll put Idaho in the same situation they have out east.”


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